Apple manufacturing partner Hon Hai—better known as Foxconn—has bought in to Japanese firm Sharp. According to a Reuters report, Hon Hai took around a ten percent share of the company, and may use its new stake as extra leverage in attempting to win orders of Apple’s rumored TV set. “Hon Hai is already the assembler of Apple’s iPhone and iPad, it needs the next driver, which is Apple TV,” said Yuanta Securities analyst Vincent Chen. “It’s something that [Hon Hai founder] Terry Gou cannot afford not to do. But this is a very big gamble.” The report goes on to note that the newly formed relationship between Hon Hai and Sharp may give the latter a leg up in bids for Apple display orders, as Hon Hai/Sharp may be in a position to offer superior pricing. Sharp currently supplies Apple with Retina Displays for the third-generation iPad.
Over the weekend, former Apple engineer Mike Margolis made a statement on Twitter that sparked some controversy over whether Apple was losing its way without its late co-founder Steve Jobs. When responding to a comment from a user who liked the old Apple TV UI—on which Margolis worked—he stated that the “new designs were tossed out 5 years ago because [Steve Jobs] didn’t like them. Now there is nobody to say ‘no’ to bad design.” While most of the discussion has focused on his first comment, subsequent comments explained that the new design is a logical next step “given their desire to match the iOS home page”, and that Jobs may have loved this new iOS-style grid. Margolis also added that the “new AppleTV UI excites me because it is just begging for apps - the old home screen UI was not app friendly/ready at all.” Finally, speaking with TechCrunch, Margolis explains that the original grid designs made little sense in a world where the iPad didn’t exist, people weren’t used to app-grid interfaces, and there was little third-party content for the device to tap into.
iFixit has completed its teardown of the second-generation Apple TV, and while most of the findings were identical to those seen in an earlier report, one specific detail has stood out. According to iFixit, the third-generation Apple TV sports a Broadcom 4330 chip that supports dual-band 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n connectivity. Coincidentally, this is the same chip found in the third-generation iPad, and is also responsible for its Bluetooth 4.0+HS support. While it is unclear whether Apple will ever take advantage of this functionality, it is noteworthy that the third-generation Apple TV sports an extra antenna, the purpose of which is currently unknown.
A member of the XBMC forums tore apart his third-generation Apple TV over the weekend, revealing specifications of the device in the process. The teardown found that the third-generation Apple TV sports the same 8GB of flash storage—produced by Toshiba, in this case—as the second-generation model, but has seen its RAM boosted from 256 MB to 512MB, and, as announced by Apple, is powered by a single-core variant of the A5 processor. Also suggested by the teardown is a new dual antenna system for the set-top box; the poster did not seem to know what the second antenna was for, but did say that it was not found in the second-generation unit. [via MacRumors]
iLounge has received its first test unit of the third-generation Apple TV, and has posted the first unboxing photos of the unit to our Flickr account. As expected, the unit’s packaging has changed little from the last generation, save for the updated photo on the rear and the mention of 1080p playback capability on one side of the box. Little has changed inside the box, either, as new instructions seem to be the only change, and the unit itself is virtually indistinguishable from the prior model, save for a new model number on the bottom. Expect much more on Apple’s latest-generation set-top box soon.
Update: We’ve now posted a handful of screenshots—accessible from the above link—comparing the 1080p output of the third-generation Apple TV to the 720p output from the second-gen unit.
There’s been a crazy quantity of news over the last day—new iPad and Apple TV hardware, new iOS and iTunes software, a new iPhoto app for iOS, and updates to virtually every major Apple-developed app in the App Store. Here’s an index to all of the major stories we’ve posted so that you can see what’s what, easily.
The Third-Generation iPad: Apple unveiled the third-generation iPad, dropping its recent numbering scheme in favor of calling it “the new iPad.” It features a Retina Display with over 3 million pixels, a new 5MP rear camera, support for some 4G LTE networks, and a body that’s slightly thicker and heavier than the iPad 2’s, but is otherwise cosmetically virtually identical. After the announcement, we discovered that the new iPad’s battery was much larger, Bluetooth 4 was added, and AirPlay was still locked at 720p from the super high-res device.
Click on the title of this article for many more links to our coverage.
Shortly following yesterday’s announcement of the third-generation iPad and third-generation Apple TV, the US Federal Communications Commission approved both products for sale. The listing for the third-generation Apple TV includes both exterior and interior photos, while the third-generation iPad receives three separate listings—one for Wi-Fi models, one for AT&T 4G models, and one for Verizon 4G models—all of which offer comparatively little in the way of new information. All four listings can be accessed via the links above.
Apple today released Apple TV Software Update 5.0, the latest update for its second-generation set-top box. The new update introduces a significantly redesigned user interface for the main menu. Apple has yet to update its Support page with details on 5.0 so it is unclear exactly what other improvements have been made in this latest update. Apple TV Software Update 5.0 is available now via the Update Software option in the device’s General Settings menu.
Update: According to Apple’s release notes, the latest update also includes support for Movie purchases in iCloud where availalbe, Genius Recommendations for content on the iTunes Store, new built-in screensaver photos from National Geographic and on-device sign-up for content partners on Apple TV using an Apple ID.
Apple has now posted a streaming video of its latest special media event, at which it announced the third-generation Apple TV and third-generation iPad. The video is just over 85 minutes long, and includes demonstrations of the new Apple TV interface, as well as iPhoto for iOS, and Infinity Blade: Dungeons. The video is available for viewing now from Apple’s website.
During this morning’s special media event, Apple announced its third-generation Apple TV. While retaining the design of the prior model, the new Apple TV offers support for 1080p video output, and also offers a redesigned user interface with larger, app-like buttons for accessing content, and a single-core variant of the A5 processor. As part of the new 1080p support, Apple is updating its TV show and movie offerings with higher-resolution copies, and is also rolling out iTunes in the Cloud support for movies, giving the new Apple TV access to 1080p content stored online, instead of on a local computer. The third-generation Apple TV also retains the $99 price point of its predecessor, and is available for pre-order today with units shipping March 16.
Apple is in negotiations with content providers to launch a streaming TV service by Christmas, according to a new report. Citing anonymous sources, the New York Post reports that Apple senior vice president of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue has been leading the negotiations, which have reportedly not been going well. “They want everything for nothing,” one media executive said, while another source said Apple’s stance can be summed up as “we decide the price, we decide what content”. Apple is said to be pitching the idea of offering channels as apps for its devices, including the Apple TV set-top box, although whether the company would be selling the service in a bundle or on an a la carte basis is unknown.
The company is also said to have made attempts to negotiate with cable operators to replace traditional set-top boxes with Apple units. “They want to create the interface, and they wanted to work with the cable guys to manage bandwidth across the TV and broadband pipeline,” said one Post source. Although Apple has had little success thus far in its negotiations, the company is said to have continued on, and is negotiations with Verizon and AT&T, seeking to gain traction.
Apple has repeatedly pushed back shipments of second-generation Apple TV, suggesting that the company soon plans to refresh the set-top box. Citing people familiar with the matter, AppleInsider reports that for three consecutive weeks, Apple has failed to restock indirect channel partners with fresh inventory of the device. The company has instead pushed back the deliveries each week by one additional week, a practice that is said to portend a formal discontinuation ahead of a new model. Earlier this month, a report noted that a number of major retailers were either out of stock of the device or had ceased sales altogether; Apple last updated the Apple TV in late 2010.
Citing code found in a beta version of iOS 5.1, a new report claims that Apple is simultaneously developing its next-generation A6 processor, as well as an “A5X” variant of the A5 processor that currently powers the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S. 9to5Mac reports that the code makes reference to both an “S5L8950X” chip—said to be the A6—and an “S5L8945X” chip, which is said to be the A5X. For reference, the original A4 was referred to as “S5L8930X”, and the A5 “S5L8940X”. A later report from the same outlet suggests that the A5X will find its way into the next-generation Apple TV, while the A6 will power the next-generation iPad.
Apple this morning announced OS X Mountain Lion, the next release of its desktop operating system for its Mac computers. Among the new features debuted by Apple this morning—many of which were based on existing iOS apps, including Notes, Reminders, and Game Center—is AirPlay Mirroring. As the name suggests, the feature will allow users to mirror their Mac’s screen on a HDTV using an Apple TV, making it easy for users to share web pages, videos, lessons, and presentations with others. In addition, the company announced a beta version of Messages for OS X. This iChat replacement mimics the Messages app on iOS, allowing users to send iMessages across both iOS and Mac devices. The app also integrates support for AIM, Yahoo!, Google Talk, and Jabber accounts, as well as FaceTime, removing the need for a separate, standalone app. The beta version of Messages is available now as a free download for users of OS X Lion 10.7.3 or later; OS X Mountain Lion is currently available in preview form to registered Mac developers and is slated to ship in late summer.
Mac developer David Stanfill has released AirParrot, a new OS X application that allows users to stream their Mac display to their Apple TV over AirPlay. The application allows users to stream any connected display to the Apple TV in real-time, and offers underscan and video quality adjustments, as well as an option to show or hide the mouse cursor; audio streaming is not currently supported. AirParrot requires OS X 10.6 or later and sells for $10. [via TUAW]
Apple CEO Tim Cook made several comments relating to the Apple TV during a speaking engagement at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, suggesting the company sees a larger market opportunity than is being taken advantage of by the current device. Referring to the company’s past strategies, Cook said that Apple typically doesn’t do hobby projects, but suggested that it created Apple TV because it believed that there was something there, and that exploring the potential of a living room product would be useful. The result has been an increasingly popular device that he recommended people should go out and buy right now. However, Cook noted that if Apple “kept on pulling the string”, it would eventually get from the small hobby business of Apple TV to a bigger market opportunity. This strongly suggests that the company is preparing to transition from its current “hobby” business to one it sees as more important—a larger opportunity than a tethered media streaming device.
Apple has been sued by a small Swiss-based company over wireless interaction between the iPhone and the Apple TV. According to an AppleInsider report, a company named SmartData filed suit against Apple in the Northern District Court of California, alleging that Apple infringed on a patent related to “wireless computing technology” called Zukero. The report claims that SmartData’s patent for a “modular computer” describes a wireless system consisting of a “pocket sized” unit to store data and run programs, a second data input device with wireless connectivity that serves as an interface, and a third element that is a television screen.
Specifically, the suit claims infringement when the iPhone and Apple TV are used together via Apple’s Remote app; it also says that Apple willfully infringed on the patent, as SmartData contacted Apple regarding the patent in July 2004, and reportedly negotiated a potential licensing agreement until mid-2006, at which point Apple allegedly ceased communication with the company. SmartData is seeking damages, a permanent ban on the infringing products, and a trial; the company does not make any devices itself, and is currently shopping around its Zukero patent, according to the report.
A number of major retailers are out of stock of the second-generation Apple TV, suggesting that the set-top box may soon be replaced by a new model. Citing a Best Buy source, 9to5Mac reports that the retailer is out of stock at the source’s store, and will not be receiving any more units as Apple TVs are no longer shipping to the stores. Further checks of Best Buy’s online store, as well as those of Amazon, Target, and Buy.com all showed the device as being either out-of-stock, unavailable, or, in the case of Amazon, listed with a claim of “usually ships in 2-5 weeks”. During Amazon’s time window, Apple is expected to hold a special media event for its next-generation iPad—and at which it could easily announce a new Apple TV. The device is still available from Apple-focused retailers MacMall and MacConnection, and is also available directly from Apple.
Apple has quietly added new menu options for accessing Genius recommendations for movies and TV shows to the second-generation Apple TV. Mac Rumors reports that early reports noting the change claimed that the menu option was displayed with the name “ATV.Menu.MOVIE.GeniusItem”, suggesting that the option’s appearance may have been premature; however, the issues seems to have been fixed. Genius recommendations for movies and TV shows have been available for sometime in iTunes on the Mac and PC—via the iTunes Sidebar—as well as on all other iOS devices, but are new to the Apple TV.
Apple plans to launch an OLED-based HDTV set as soon as April or May, according to a new report. Citing a high-ranking source with a major electronics retailer, TechnoBuffalo reports that the source has seen pre-production versions of the device, which is described as “gorgeous” and “very thin” and will come in sizes up to 42 inches diagonally. The report goes on to claim that the set will use a Siri-like voice command system in lieu of a typical remote, with the option to use an iOS device as a remote, instead. In addition, the set is said to use facial recognition software to automatically turn itself off if no one is in the room for a set period of time—a feature already found on some competing sets—and automatically wake itself when someone reenters the viewing area.
Apple is also said to be exploring the idea of using the TV to control other appliances in the home, including ovens and garage doors, although the report claims that the source provided no details as to whether Apple make such devices themselves; it is instead suggested that Apple might create a Made For iPod-like program to certify such products from third-party manufacturers. Finally, the report claims that the TV has been delayed in getting to market as the company has been focused on making the first-generation product as feature-complete as possible, as it will have fierce competition not only from established brands but from larger—and often times cheaper—sets. While it seems likely at this point that Apple will launch its own TV set, the timeframe as laid out in the report strikes us as being a little early; if Apple were shooting for such an early launch, reports of early manufacturing tests would quite possibly already have started to appear. As such, it wouldn’t be a surprise if an Apple-branded TV was debuted mid-year at WWDC, possibly later.